HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Indiana Executes Potential Organ Donor

The good folks over at Jurist have this story:

Indiana governor Mitch Daniels refused [press release] to grant clemency or a 90-day stay of execution for Gregory Scott Johnson, a convicted murderer [Indiana Supreme Court's denial of post conviction relief] who hoped to give his kidney and liver to his sister, who suffers from non-alcoholic hepatitis. In a statement released after his death Wednesday morning, Johnson accused the parole board of failing to recognize he had changed while in prison and was capable of this humane act. The governor said he would have been amenable to a short delay if Johnson's donation offered "a clear, demonstrated medical advantage to his sister." Doctors decided Johnson was not a good match because of his weight and hepatitis B diagnosis, and the doctors reasoned Johnson's sister would likely get a liver and kidney from the transplant waiting list shortly.

A Reuters story on the execution points out that death-row transplant requests have occurred, albeit rarely, before:

In a 1995 Delaware case a condemned man donated a kidney to his mother, and returned to death row. In Alabama, a prisoner awaiting execution won permission for an organ donation, but he was not a correct match, [Richard] Dieter [executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center] said.

In a Florida case, an inmate was denied a request to donate a kidney to his brother. The condemned man was later exonerated and released from jail, but his brother died waiting for a transplant, Dieter said.

A similar request by death-row prisoner Jonathan Nobles was denied by Texas prison officials in 1998 (Abilene Reporter-News).  Those of us who are old enough to remember Jack Kevorkian before he became the media-saturated "Dr. Death" may recall his campaign in the 1970s and 1980s to allow death-row prisoners to donate organs that would otherwise be needed to keep them alive.  [tm]

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